COLUMBIA — MU was a giant celebration Sunday night and early Monday morning following the announcement of the death of former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
President Barack Obama's speech from the White House on Sunday evening confirmed that a U.S. intelligence operation succeeded in killing bin Laden in a mansion in Pakistan.
Soon after, students started celebrating all across campus, from outside Ellis Library to Greektown. Students in Johnston Hall cheered out windows at people passing below on Rollins Street, where cars packed with cheering students rolled by — more than one of them playing Miley Cyrus' “Party in the USA” from their windows.
Senior Paul Schulz and a friend walked down Rollins Street toward Greektown carrying the American flag that had been hanging on his wall. He said he had a test scheduled for 9 a.m. the next morning but said he wasn’t concerned.
“It’s my American duty to get out,” he said.
As he walked, Schulz often stopped to cheer and high-five people driving past in cars, waving his flag.
“Keep that flag up, Schulz,” his friend called after him as he went to high-five one carful of people. “Keep it up.”
“It’s never touching the ground,” Schulz said.
Even from blocks away, cheers could be heard coming from Greektown, where hundreds of students gathered on Richmond Avenue. MU Police Department Captain Brian Weimer said the street was blocked off at all entrances.
The crowd gathered on the street between the Alpha Delta Pi and Gamma Phi Beta sorority houses. They waved American flags, threw rolls of toilet paper, raised chants of “USA," "MIZ-USA" and more.
Sophomore Evan Weiss provided the soundtrack for the party in Greektown, blasting music from the roof of fraternity Delta Sigma Phi. Weiss, who often deejays under the name “UberVice,” owns all of his own equipment. After his friends set up his speakers, he started playing music, and more people showed up.
He featured a mix of American songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” and victory songs such as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”
“I feel like this is a big event for our country, and I was here to witness it firsthand,” Weiss said.
Freshman Travis Noyes enlisted in the Marines two years ago today. He said several people with whom he went through training all wanted this to happen.
“This is the end goal that we all had in mind,” he said. “I’m glad this has happened.”
Noyes had just gotten back to Laws Hall when his dad called with the news. He said he turned his TV on and couldn’t believe his eyes.
He said the group of people with whom he was celebrating included all branches of the military.
“Even though we’re all different, we’re all fighting for the same thing," he said.
Senior Brooke Hogrefe and sophomore Taylor Martin said they had been studying at the Student Center when the news came, and they stopped to watch Obama speak. When they went back to Greektown so Hogrefe could get her car and go home, they found they couldn’t get her car out because of the crowds. They decided to park and got out to take pictures. They stood back from the main crowd, just taking in the scene.
“Where else do you get to see this?” Martin said, looking out over the crowd.
Hogrefe said she liked seeing everyone get together for one cause.
“Everyone just feels so together right now,” she said.
"It's like unity," Martin said.
At midnight, they had already been there for about 45 minutes, and said they planned to stay until the end.
Ashleigh Bartlett, a junior at MU, said she saw the news of bin Laden's death on Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. A political science major, Bartlett said bin Laden's death would have significant foreign policy implications.
"We're going to have to wait for al-Qaida’s response," she said.
Senior Matthew Johnson is in the Air Force ROTC. He was in Cornell Hall when he heard the news that Obama was going to speak and said he knew the announcement would be important.
“I thought, 'Either Gaddafi's dead, or maybe Osama Bin Laden." he said. "So, I called it."
Johnson said the event was a great lift for the nation's spirit.
"It's going to be great for America's morale," he said over a deafening chorus of whoops and chants.
In the back of pickup truck looping around Greektown and downtown Columbia, about 15 students were cheering, waving flags and celebrating the news. As the truck wove through the campus, the students recounted their reactions to Obama's announcement.
When sophomore Colleen Wood and her sorority sisters in Kappa Alpha Theta saw on Twitter and Facebook that bin Laden was reported to be dead, they immediately switched their TV from a "Harry Potter" movie to the news.
Wood said the 40 girls crammed in the living room were “dead silent.”
Junior Andrew Israel said he could hear people screaming in his house after they saw Tweets reporting the death. Woods and Israel said social media played a big role in how quickly they got their information.
“There’s no way you couldn’t have found out,” Wood said.
Leslie Raney, an MU sophomore from Nashville, Tenn., said she thinks the president’s speech was the boost the South needed after the week of devastating storms. Raney said she has friends at many universities in the South and said this week has not been easy for them or her.
“Everyone’s been really scared,” Raney said. “This could really bind the South together and give everybody some hope.”
Junior Ryan Reif summed up the crowd’s sentiments.
“It’s a moral victory,” Reif said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat — we are all Americans tonight.”